Bills sign replacement for punter Matt Araiza, who was released amid rape allegation

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Four days after releasing rookie punter Matt Araiza amid a rape allegation, the Buffalo Bills have found his replacement.

The Bills signed veteran punter Sam Martin to a one-year deal, the team announced Wednesday. Martin, 32, has played nine seasons in the NFL, most recently with the Denver Broncos. The Detroit Lions selected Martin in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. He played seven seasons in Detroit before spending the past two seasons in Denver.

Among punters with at least 35 punts, Martin ranked fourth with a net average of 44.1 yards per punt last season. The Broncos released Martin on Monday after he reportedly refused to take a pay cut in favor of unproven second-year pro Corliss Waitman, who has seven punts in his NFL career.

Martin's release proved to be a break for the Bills after the unexpected release of Araiza, whom the team spent a sixth-round draft pick on in April. Nicknamed "Punt God," Araiza was known for his booming kicks at San Diego State. He made headlines with an 82-yard punt for the Bills in his preseason debut.

Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza walks on the sideline during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
The Bills released Matt Araiza amid an allegation that he took part in gang rape while a student at San Diego State. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

The Bills released Araiza on Saturday after a woman filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he and then-San Diego State teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko raped her at an off-campus party at Araiza's residence in 2021 when she was 17 years old. Neither Araiza nor his teammates were arrested in the alleged incident.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Saturday that the team wasn't aware of the allegations until notified of the pending litigation in July. Beane said the team waited to release Araiza until finding out more information.

“With the serious nature of the allegations, we don’t have the means to put all the facts together,” Beane said on Saturday. “There’s multiple versions of what happened and [Bills head coach Sean McDermott] is a football coach, and I’m a GM. We don’t have access to everything, and that’s more important than playing football.”

Araiza and his family maintain that he is innocent of the charges.